Friday, 28 September 2012

Das Kapital

Recent Malaysia Budget 2013 is basically a continuation of the practice over the past few years; Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged to boost help for the poor to cushion the impact of inflation by promising it'll reduce the impact of rising costs on Malaysians.

Our poverty level looks good on paper but woefully ignores reality. Statistics are supposed to accurately measure our economic environment, so that in this case, pin-point policies to deal with poverty can be crafted.

An income that is necessary to buy a group of foods that would meet the nutritional needs of the members of a household. The income is also to meet other basic necessities such as clothing, rent, fuel and utilities, transport and communications, medical expenses, education and recreation.

Take a quick glance at Job Street’s salary report a fresh graduate is only able to earn about RM2500 per month. With living costs having risen exponentially in recent years, how are we expected to take out a decent living with these figures?

Today considering our public transportation system is still yet to improve; a fresh graduate must own a transportation to commute to work. This situation requires Malaysian to choose between buying a car or a house first, and many have committed to own a car first. Petrol costs RM 1.80 per litre and most of the roads are toll roads. It will cost easily around RM 300 for a average home to office.

It will easily cost them around two years of their salary to put down deposit for a local car. If we take into consideration their living expenses and other commitments, it may take them even longer to settle their car loan. Hence, it has left them with very little option but to take the maximum car loan financing tenure of nine years.

For young graduate in Malaysia, buying a car is more expensive both in real terms, and in terms of debt-to-income ratio due to the purchase price of the car are expensive because of tax . In reality, it means they have to either purchase a car with lower price tag or commit to a longer term loan to own a car, which cost them the opportunity of owning a home.

When Malaysian spend a substantial amount of their salary paying for a car, they are left with little savings to own a house, and their house affordability level decreases over the years as prices rise due to inflation.

Unfortunately by the time they can afford to purchase a home, be it three, five or nine years later, the price of a property would have escalated due to among other things, inflation, higher construction cost and higher land prices.

For example, an apartment today costs roughly about RM250,000 — translating to a R25,000 deposits. With an average salary of RM3,000, one may perhaps save RM500 per month (after deducting expenses) and take up to 50 months to save up for an apartment. That’s 4 years! How would young married couples cope with such costs?

Since most middle-class Malaysians earn within this average, it’s easy to see how one would be hard-pressed to afford a house, especially since property prices continue to skyrocket.

While it may be safe to say that their salary would also increase, generally speaking the increment may not aligned to the rate of inflation. In most cases, owning a home will be a huge debt lasting 30 to 40 years of housing loan repayment.

It should be in the government’s vision to ensure that Malaysian is paid well enough to buy a house and feed themselves. This is not even scratching the surface of the problem as there are many other Malaysians who earn less than RM3, 000 or even RM1, 500 for that matter.

Without stringent enforcement and specific policies to reduce income inequality and increase equality of opportunities, efforts to meet the 2020 target would be futile if not everyone can benefit from the increased economic growth.

Note:- Das Kapital, by Karl Marx, is a critical analysis of capitalism as political economy, meant to reveal the economic laws of the capitalist mode of production, and how it is the precursor of the socialist mode of production.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

My Big Fat Malay Wedding

A couple of days ago, I read an interesting news paper article about how much dowry is enough? What is the proper 'rate' to give? What would be appropriate?

A wedding should basically held up as a lodestar of bringing families together and of realizing a couple's dreams, but the "happily ever after" myth that permeates Malay weddings was powerfully dispelled.

Most couples want to begin their married life auspiciously and free from the problems. However, it is not uncommon to hear about married couples who go into debt just to get married.

Behind the happy images of the big fat Malay weddings getting progressively bigger and fatter lurks the unpalatable truth of dowry and wedding cost. Dowry is a social evil in which the families of Malay brides can make such a big demands of the groom. Sometimes, the parents of the couple may expect a grand wedding celebration. The parents may want to show off to the relatives or friends and therefore expect no less than a grand wedding feast.

Bride price, also known as bride wealth, bride token, is an amount of money or property or wealth paid by the groom or his family to the parents of a woman upon the marriage of their daughter to the groom. (Compare Indian dowry, which is paid to the groom, or used by the bride to help establish the new household, and dower, which is property settled on the bride herself by the groom at the time of marriage.) The agreed bride price may or may not intended to reflect the perceived value of the girl or young woman.

Malay-Muslim tradition in Malaysia dictates two kinds of wedding dowries — the “mas kahwin” and “hantaran perkahwinan”.  

Mas kahwin prices in Malaysia are fixed by local state religious departments. It is compulsory in Islam for a man to pay dowry to the woman on entering marriage. 

Hantaran, on the other hand, is a tradition and technically optional. Hantaran was normally use by bride family to support their wedding functions. These bride prices are increasingly seeing young Malay couples heading to the wedding dais shackled by debt as they struggle to deal with the rising living costs

The sharp increase in prices of essential commodities, vegetables and food products has made catering costlier. Despite skyrocketing prices, relatives of the couple make specific demands about the delicacies to be served.

Due to the expensive rent of marriage halls and food costs, now days there will be a joint function. A wedding is supposed to be a once in a lifetime occasion. The couple may have no problem about spending whatever amount it takes to organize a special and a memorable wedding for themselves. They may decide to invite all their friends and relatives and hence need to accommodate a lot of people.They may decide to do their banquet at a hall instead of under a canopy in front of the house.

Yet this crazy spending for just one day, by two people, who are obviously smitten to even think logical; taking vows to spend the rest of their lives in wedded bliss…

A couple may decide to get married thinking they have sufficient savings fund to cover all the necessary expenses. However, they may fall for the various marketing gimmicks giving them the promises of the perfect wedding. The couple may end up paying extras for the wedding photos, the banquet, wedding rings or jewellery, clothing, preliminary celebration, honeymoon, etc. If they had a budget in the beginning, they may end up being over budget in the end.

The above are common scenarios on how a couple can get into debt when they get married. There are several ways for them to acquire the money and some of the common route is to use their credit cards, borrow from their parents or relatives, borrow from friends, take out a personal loan, etc. Depending on how big is their wedding debt, it may take years for them to repay or settle it.

I am a cynical realist who believes extravagant romanticism is only for the foolhardy. While you guys battle out the pros and cons of a big fat wedding, I am still trying to plan my own simple wedding. 

Note: Even to initial cost to hire Foreign Maid from Indonesia & Philippine in Malaysia now at RM 5000. What about having a wife?

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Education Blueprint

Education is an important pillar of our society, in term of social, economical and cultural development. Education is the basic tool allowing everybody to be first a human being, to develop himself, to have a job and to be integrated in a society where he can share, communicate with other people. But a statement needs to be done: everybody is not equal in term of education, and some people are not succeeding very well in their studies. The chance for these people to be integrated in the society and to live in harmony is lower.

There are many reasons why some people does not succeed in their studies, in their life. There is a first reason which is a social reason. Children who are living in a family where the parents have a low education level, will face more difficulties to acquire a higher education level than their parents. But it does not mean necessarily that they cannot succeed in their education. There is probably a question of temper. The ones will show more will and perseverance to succeed, the others will be quickly discouraged. Here is the need to have a performance education system, where teachers can play an important social role, contributing to help everybody to meet success in the education.

Let us have a look on the needed ingredients to build a strong educational system. A first condition is to have passionate teachers. As in many jobs, the passion is a key factor of success. The passion brings the motivation to increase your skills and capabilities in areas of interests, and leads you to give the best of what you can do. The passion is something you can transmit, you convince the other because you are convinced yourself. In education matter, passion is something you have to transmit. Some teachers show lack of passion, which is not an example to motivate children or students. The learning process needs efforts, where we have to cross over difficulties, and students have to be motivated to cross over difficulties, to face challenges. Challenges are what we have to face during all our life, and what make us more self-confident. Education has also to prepare the children to face this.

Another important condition to motivate students and to bring them to success in their educational process, are the educational skills of teachers. It is important to be able to explain things on different ways with examples. Some teachers are able to explain complex matters by making comparisons with simple concepts, with concrete things, allowing the students to visualize more easily the what being teach, the explained concepts. But it is also important to explain what is the utility to study matters. What I am saying here, is not that there are useful and useless things to learn. It is not a fact but a wrong perception the children have, and they are wondering why they have to learn things which seem to be useless. They are judging it as useless, because they don’t perceive the goal of learning it. I will take the example of mathematics. I remember teachers explaining theorems, formulas, hypotheses, and logical developments. But at that time, I had the feeling that the only goal to learn these things was to get enough points at the end of the year, to succeed in the examinations, and to have a qualification. I had the chance to have later a professor in the university who was illustrating mathematical concepts or equations with concrete examples. It was much more easy to understand theoretical concepts with practical examples.

Knowledge is the raw material of intellectual and social development. All what we are learning at school, in mathematical, physical, chemical sciences, literature or history, are the basic components to understand or to build more complex concepts or knowledge. But it is also important to show the brought added value of the combination of skills, of disciplines. We can see today new jobs which were not existing some years ago, but which are only a combination of existing jobs and skills. Let us take the example of somebody who is a qualified translator and who has passions of IT and can make programs. By combining two skills sets, he can create translation programs or to work in the online translation industry. The added value of such combination will be a motivation to learn and to develop other skills. For instance, in our globalized world, a stylist who want to present creations in foreign countries like Italy or United Kingdom, could be find more motivation to learn languages, because she has a concrete reason, a concrete motivation to learn it.

As I mention before, education goal is first to become a human being, to build our personal development, to become first the actor of our own life. The role of the education system is also to help children to develop interest areas and to help him to build their own life. The development of interest and curiosity will contribute to develop motivation, and drive people to passion. Passion is an essential component of self-development. Passion leads people to move their limits forward, to encourage them to face new challenges. Passion is also something teachers have to transmit. And to transmit passion, I am coming back to the first point I presented here, to have passionate teachers communicating the passion to learn.As in many areas, passion is a key factor, and the passion to learn can lead you to unlimited new horizons. Let us give the key of passion to learn to the new generations, giving them the opportunities to conquer their freedom.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

I’ve been thinking about the power of apology lately. I’ve been noticing that the people for whom I have the most respect don’t hesitate to say “I was wrong,” or “I’m sorry I…” On the other hand, the people I have the hardest time respecting seem constitutionally unable to take responsibility for their own mistakes. Even when they try, it comes out sounding like “I may have been partly at fault, but…” or “It may seem that I was wrong, but…” They just can’t do it. 

We won't let go of something because it is a blow to our ego to say  we were wrong, or even to say, "I'm sorry I think I may have misunderstood what you meant by that statement." Sometimes people seem to get the notion that admitting they are wrong is the same thing as admitting some kind of weakness. I know for myself admitting I was wrong was the same thing as admitting that people who told me I was stupid. Since I knew that was not true, I would adamantly defend any position I took, even after I was convinced I was wrong. 
Apologizing freely requires a good deal of courage. It’s not comfortable for any of us to admit an error, or to acknowledge that something we’ve done has caused others harm or inconvenience. So when someone truly apologizes, we know he or she is putting honesty and honor above personal comfort or self-protection. It’s inspiring, and it feels brave.

Next time when we are clearly in the wrong, take deep breath, put aside our self-justification, our excuses, our blame, our defensiveness, and simply apologize. Being courageous in this way is generally scary in anticipation. But it feels great once we have done it.